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A Guide to Removing Wine, Blood, Lipstick and other Stains!

Updated by Jim Deckebach

Did applying your makeup this morning result in ruined dress? Did a hot dog lunch cause a ketchup spill on a white blouse? Or did the beginning of spring result in a child's wardrobe covered in grass stains? The good news is none of these incidents means tossing a favorite piece of clothing or furniture! All of these stains can be successfully treated. The most successful stain treatments are applied quickly and are targeted to deal with the individual stain. The best way to remove a wine stain isn't the best way to remove a blood stain. The following guide provides tips for dealing with almost every kind of stain a person and their family will encounter.

Adhesives: Apply ice anywhere that feels sticky, this will cause the adhesive to harden. Scrape the adhesive off the fabric with a butter knife. Apply stain remover. Rinse the remover away, and then launder regularly.
Baby Formula: Treat the stain with a stain remover containing active enzymes. Let soak for a minimum of 30 minutes before laundering.
Baked Beans: Turn the fabric inside out and rinse with cold water. Return the material so that the stain is facing outward and brush in liquid detergent using up/down brush strokes. Rinse, sponge the stain with white vinegar, and re-rinse. Repeat these steps until as much of the stain as possible has been removed, and then launder with a color safe bleach.
Barbeque Sauce: See baked beans. If the stain persists after washing, do not place in dryer. Instead, rub in detergent and soak using warm water for 30 minutes or more before washing for a second time.
Beverages: Sponge on/soak in cool water and pretreat with liquid laundry detergent. Wash using sodium hypochlorite bleach or oxygen bleach, depending on fabric type.
Blood: For fresh stains, soak using cold water and then launder. For dried in stains, soak using warm water with an enzyme-containing laundry product before laundering.
Bodily Fluids: Soak in an enzyme-contain product and then wash with sodium hypochlorite bleach or oxygen bleach, depending on the type of fabric.
Brown / Yellow Discoloration: Don't use bleach. Instead, use a rust removal product that is safe for fabrics, and then launder typically.
Butter: Treat with stain remover; then wash using the hottest water the fabric can withstand safely.
Candle Wax: Let the wax cool. Use a dull butter knife to remove surface wax. Place paper towels on either side of the stain and apply a warm iron. Change out the paper towels to keep the wax from transferring. Now put the fabric stain-side down on more paper towels. Sponge the back of the stain with stain remover. Blot with paper towels, and then launder using either sodium hypochlorite bleach or oxygen bleach, depending on fabric type, to remove any discoloration.
Chocolate: Remove any pieces of chocolate. Soak the stain in cool water. Apply stain remover. Wash using the hot water, remaining aware of the fabric type.
Collar / Cuff Soil: Pretreat using a stain remover or liquid detergent before laundering normally.
Coffee / Tea: Sponge stain with cool water. Apply an enzyme-containing product to older stains. A standard stain remover will work for fresher stains. Launder normally, using a sodium hypochlorite bleach or oxygen bleach, depending on fabric type.
Cosmetics / Lipstick: Pretreat with a stain remover, or rub a bar of soap on the stain. Wash as usual.
Crayon: See candle wax. Alternatively, dampen the crayon stain before gently rubbing it with a bar of soap. Launder using the hottest water safe for the fabric.
Dairy Products: Use an enzyme-containing laundry product and soak for 30 minutes or longer. The older the stain, the longer it will need to soak. Wash as directed.
Deodorants: Treat with a stain remover. For light stains, launder as usual. For heavier stains, wash using an oxygen bleach product.
Dye Transfer: Use a premade color removal product and follow the direction of the product. Wash normally. If any stain remains, wash using either sodium hypochlorite bleach or oxygen bleach.
Egg: Remove any debris, and then soak for 30+ minutes in an enzyme-containing laundry product before washing normally.
Fabric Softener: Dampen the stain before gently rubbing it with a bar of soap. Rinse the soap, and then launder as directed.
Fruit Juices: Launder with color safe bleach. Some fabrics require the use of oxygen bleach.
Grass: Soak in an enzyme-containing laundry product for at least thirty minutes before washing with bleach (sodium hypochlorite bleach or oxygen bleach, as directed by the item's care label).
Grease and Oil: Light stains are treated by applying stain remover before laundering in the hottest water the fabric can safely withstand. Heavier stains should be placed face-down on paper towels before applying laundry soap to the back of the stain. Change out the paper towels frequently. Rinse thoroughly before washing in the hottest water safe for the fabric type.
Ice Cream: Soak in an enzyme-containing laundry product for thirty minutes or more before washing in warm water (the warmest water safe for the fabric).
Ink: There are a couple of options for removing ink. The simplest is to pretreat with stain remover before washing regularly. For more intense ink stains, stretch the fabric tautly over the mouth of a jar. Drip denatured alcohol onto the stain. It will remove the ink and fall into the jar below. Once the ink is no longer visible, thoroughly rinse the stain and then launder as usual.
Ketchup: Carefully remove excess ketchup without pushing it further into the weave of the fabric. Run cold water over the back of the stain until the ketchup is removed. Launder normally.
Lipstick: Lipstick stains on napkins can be treated by placing the napkin stain-side down on a stack of paper towels and dabbing rubbing alcohol on the back of the stain. The alcohol will dissolve the lipstick onto the paper towels below, which should be changed frequently during the stain removal process.
Maple Syrup: Let the syrup harden; then remove excess syrup using a blunt, hard object. Turn the stain over and flush with cool water, slowly working up to flushing it with warm water. Apply stain remover and then rinse well before washing as normal.
Mayonnaise: Use a stain remover before washing in the hottest water the fabric can safely withstand.
Mildew: Launder using bleach (either sodium hypochlorite bleach or oxygen bleach, as determined by the fabric) in the hottest water safe for the fabric type of the item.
Mud: Let dry, and then scrape off as much as possible. Treat light stains with liquid detergent before washing as usual. Heavier stains will require a presoak with an enzyme-containing laundry product before washing.
Mustard: Rinse with cold water before applying a stain treatment. Launder in the hottest water safe for the fabric type. Use chlorine bleach if it is safe for the fabric type of the item.
Nail Polish: Nail polish remover is often useful in removing polish stains, but cannot be used on acetate or triacetate fabrics. Place the stain on paper towels and apply the remover to the back of the stain. The paper towels will have to be replaced during the process. Rinse the fabric before washing as usual.
Paint: Water-based paint stains can be treated by rinsing using warm water before laundering as usual. Oil-based paint stains should be treated using the thinner indicated on the paint can. Rinse. Rub a bar of soap over the stain. Rinse again, and then launder normally.
Perfume: Treat with liquid laundry detergent before laundering as normal.
Perspiration: Rub the stain with bar soap. Wash the item using the hottest water safe for the fabric type.
Pine Resin: Sponge dry-cleaning solution over the stain. Mix up one cup of liquid detergent with a few ammonia drops. After the dry-cleaning solution dries, soak the stain in the detergent/ammonia mix for half an hour. Use liquid laundry detergent in the washing machine.
Scorch: A regular wash cycle using sodium hypochlorite bleach is best for bleach-safe fabrics. Otherwise, mix oxygen bleach into hot water and soak the cloth before washing normally.
Shoe Polish: Pretreat liquid shoe polish stains with a paste made of powder laundry detergent and water. Paste shoe polish stains should have any debris removed before being pretreated with a stain remover. Rinse, then apply liquid detergent. Include fabric safe bleach in the wash cycle.
Soft Drink: Soak the stain in cool water for at least half an hour. Apply stain remover. Wash, using bleach if safe for the fabric.
Tar: Remove debris from fabric. Place the stain over paper towels. Sponge the back of the stain with cleaning fluid. Replace the paper towels as needed. Use the hottest water (as directed by the fabric type) when washing the item.
Tobacco: Dampen lightly before rubbing the stain with a bar of soap. Soak in a laundry product containing enzymes. Wash normally as directed.
Typewriter Correction Fluid: Let the stain dry thoroughly before brushing off as much as possible. Take the item to the dry cleaners and let them know what kind of stain the item has.
Watermelon: Watermelon stains are hard to treat because they are hard to see, at least until a hidden stain permanently discolors the fabric! Wash any item thought to have watermelon stains in the hottest water safe for the fabric type.
Wine: Start by sponging the stain with cool water. Apply stain remover; wash as normal. Add bleach if the fabric is rated for chlorine bleach.
Wood Stain: There are a few wood-based stain options. Water-based wood stains should be sat face down on paper towels, and then the back should be blotted with an acetone-dipped white rag. For oil-based wood stains, use mineral spirits instead of acetone. Thoroughly rinse and then wash as usual.

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